Deaths In Custody

Twenty years after the Royal Commission report into Aboriginal deaths in custody was released, fatalities in prison custody are rising and inmates are still dying as a result of the same lethal practices the Commission sought to eliminate. As part of a forensic Crikey investigation, freelance journalist and Australian Centre for Independent Journalism associate Inga Ting examines the startling data, the damning case studies and the very human stories behind a vexed political and social issue.

Why are deaths in custody rising?
Twenty years after the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, inmates are still dying as a result of the same practices the Commission sought to eliminate.

Medical warnings on suicide risk weren’t delivered
The hanging death of Aboriginal inmate Larna Louise Ryan could have been avoided had prison and health authorities simply checked her medical and case history.

Seven tragedies, seven cases of negligence
The tragic 2007 death of mentally ill prisoner Adam Douglas Shipley is just one of seven deaths linked through a chain of negligence, bureaucratic bungling and failed policies.

Mental health assessments fail suicidal inmates
One quarter of inmates who suicided in NSW prisons in the past nine years did so within days of having been assessed as no longer at risk of self harm or suicide.

In safe, monitored rooms prisoners still hang
The deaths of prisoners in cells specifically designed to prevent self harm raises doubts about supervision and monitoring practices in NSW prisons.

Prisoners’ families still waiting for answers
Anger, frustration and helplessness are recurring themes for the families of prisoners who die in custody.

Families blocked from warning corrections staff
The troubled relationship between custodial authorities and prisoners’ families has continued to draw criticism at deaths in custody inquests.

‘I’m homicidal, I’ve told them that for days’
Careless or inappropriate jail or cell placement has contributed to at least 20 deaths in NSW prison custody in the past decade, according to a Crikey analysis of coronial reports.

Sweeping changes, but coroners critical of inquiry
Serious questions about the integrity, accountability and independence of death in custody investigations are still being raised by NSW coroners, despite sweeping changes following a Royal Commission.

Authorities ignore warnings on hanging points
State governments around the country are not only failing to fulfil their obligation to remove obvious hanging points in police and prison cells, they are also building new prisons that do not meet this safety standard.

Why are more prisoners dying from ‘natural causes’?
An independent investigation is needed to explain the sharp rise in the number of Australian prison deaths being attributed to “natural causes” and the young ages of those dying.